May 22, 2023

Finding Commercial Clients: Strategies for Emerging Photographers - Photo Authentic Podcast #2

1 min read

Show Notes

Introduction: Welcome to the Photo Authentic podcast with host Lincoln Barber, dedicated to helping emerging photographers succeed in the commercial photography industry.

Importance of Finding Clients:
Without clients, photographers don't have jobs. Lincoln highlights the significance of a steady stream of clients and outlines the three main types of clients in commercial photography: editorial clients, client direct, and ad agency clients.

Challenges in Finding Clients:
Lincoln discusses the common challenges photographers face when trying to find clients, including where to meet them, what to present, how to reach the right person, and how to convert meetings into actual jobs.

Defining Your Target Audience:
It's crucial for photographers to narrow down their niche and clearly communicate their specialization to clients. Lincoln emphasizes the importance of being known as an expert in a specific area to attract the right clients and secure larger jobs.

Building a Strong Portfolio and Website:
Lincoln shares insights on creating a cohesive and visually striking portfolio that showcases a photographer's unique style and range. He also provides tips on designing an effective website, including the importance of an overview, case studies, tear sheets, and a detailed contact page.

Networking and Building Relationships:
Lincoln explains the value of networking and building relationships within the targeted industry. He recommends leveraging trade organizations and attending local events to connect with potential clients and establish rapport. Additionally, he advises utilizing existing clients for referrals.

Online Marketing Strategies:
Lincoln emphasizes the role of online marketing in staying top of mind with clients. He discusses the significance of email marketing, building a mailing list, and sending regular updates and engaging content to remind clients of your presence. He also highlights the importance of social media in showcasing your work and location.

Recap of Key Points:
Lincoln summarizes the main takeaways, emphasizing the importance of targeting your audience, narrowing down your niche, building a strong portfolio and website, networking, and utilizing online marketing strategies to stay connected with clients.


Welcome to the Photo Authentic podcast. I'm your host, Lincoln Barber, and this podcast is dedicated to helping emerging photographers like you become successful and have a long lasting career.

This is episode two, How to Find Clients. Finding clients is super important for commercial photographers, obviously, because without clients you don't have any jobs. So in order to have a steady stream of clients, it's important to know where to look. In the commercial photography world, there are three main clients.

There's your editorial clients, which includes magazines and newspapers and books as well. There's client direct, so that's when you're hired by a company to do work for that company. Catalogs are a good example, as well as industrial type clients.

And the biggest dollar client is the ad agency clients. So these are the ones that are working for large brands and you're working on a campaign or you're working to build an image library, or some kind of large, photo project. So these are the three types of clients that you wanna attract in your marketing.

Some of the challenges that photographers face when trying to find these kind of clients is, where to meet them, what to present to them, how to get to the right person. And how to actually turn those meetings into a job. So in this podcast, I'm gonna talk about some of the ways that you can define your target audience, who you're going after, how you can build a strong portfolio and a website that inspires people to contact you, how to network and build relationships, and then how to use online marketing strategies to grow your business and grow your connections to getting these new clients.

So let's start with defining your target audience. As a photographer, especially in the commercial world, it's really important that you know what you want to do and the clients know what you want to do. You know, if you're a photographer that shoots products, but you also do architecture and you also do food, and you do lifestyle, and you do fashion and do underwater. You're, you're so broad that, somebody's not gonna wanna hire you because they don't know exactly what you're best at. Especially in these larger jobs, the clients really want you to be the expert.

You start off by, narrowing your niche down. So if you like shooting in studio and you like shooting products, be a product photographer, and go after product companies. Go after businesses that make products . Companies that make shoes, those kind of things. Like figure out what it is that you want to target and build your marketing and your plan around that target. Another way to think of this is finding your niche, so specifically targeting a certain niche in the commercial photography space that you would like and that people will hire you for. Those are the sort of the Venn diagram, if you will, of getting good work. It's the work you like to do and work you'll get paid to do.

So once you figure out your niche, you wanna build a strong portfolio and a website showcasing that portfolio. A good portfolio shows your range, and your ability to take a subject and take it on in a different way or a unique way. You know, something that says, you are a photographer that likes to use lighting, you see that in your work. You see a lot of visually striking, strong, lighting.

If you're a photographer that's more of a storyteller and a documentary approach to your work. You know, a lot of your, your portfolio should look like that. You should have longer, journals and essays about, projects and stuff like that. I myself, I'm primarily an architecture and interiors photographer, and so my portfolio is all about showcasing how I approach architecture and interiors, my natural, organic way of lighting, and how I can make people look natural in spaces.

It's really important that your portfolio is cohesive in that it's not all over the board. You know, you don't want to have, again, like I was saying, you don't want to have, food with, somebody riding a bicycle and when they're completely two different subjects.

Now, if you shoot film and the way you photograph food looks like the way you showed a photograph of a bicycle, then maybe you can present it as that you're a stylistic photographer and that your niche is your style. But that really pigeonholes you into a certain look. And so if you ever want to change your look, you have to kind of start over your portfolio. So I really recommend just finding a certain niche that you like to target and go after that.

So as far as your website goes, there's a lot of ways to present it, but the, the best way is to start off with an overview. So like You know, 30 to 40 images that kind of really showcase the best of your work. Start with your best work and end with your best work. Present it in a website where you can get full screen images, it's really easy to go through where people can download to pull in for comps and for, you know treatments to show their clients. So make it, make your site really fast, really easy, and really big photos. If you want to have specific galleries, you know, for each portfolio, so say, say you're a food photographer and you want to have a hot food section, a liquid section and a dessert section, like, that's fine. You know, you can definitely break it down into those sort of categories, but keep in mind that whatever you put first, you'll get hired to do most often. So it's just sort of that, that first click is the most important one.

So in your portfolio, make sure whatever you're presenting first is the most important.

Next you want to have, case studies or examples of whole shoots that you've done to show proof. You can include tear sheets in this section as well. Like if you have any advertising or website examples of your work being used in, in a commercial way, that's a good place to put that.

I recommend having a blog on your website and you know, talking about work that you've done, promoting shoot that you you that was fun to do or some personal work, make your blog organic and fun and just a way of keeping record of the work you've done over the years.

It's one of those things that. It's kind of a pain to get started, but once you, once you've been doing it at least, you know, once or twice a month for several years, you've just got, you know, tons of content that you can share and repurpose and use for other places.

And the last thing that you want on your website, that's the most important thing, is a really good contact page and a contact page. It just needs to have your name and your phone. Where you live and it needs to have a contact form and a detailed contact form I find to be very helpful. So rather than just name, email, message, you know, do something where it's like client name, agency name or business name, job description, timeline, any kind of details that you would need to start the conversation about building an estimate.

You wanna frame your inquiries so that they know what to expect when you follow up with them. So once you have your good website and your good portfolio and you've kind of got a, a niche that you're going after, it's time to find network and to build relationships in that industry that you're focused on.

So let's take example architecture in the architecture industry. There are some trade organizations where architects gather now the biggest one being the AIA, the American Institute of Architects. So what I do is I go to the AIA's website and I find out what local events are coming up, what local trade shows are coming up and I try to position myself into getting into these events, whether as a guest or as a speaker.

I want to get in front of architects and kind of talk about you know, my photography and how it can help their businesses and connect that way. It's much easier to get a client if they can meet you and talk to you first and get a good feel for the kind of person you are. You know, I think half half of being a good photographer is just being a nice person.

So once you've done those kind of networking things, the next way find new clients, is to use your existing clients for referrals. So if you do a great job for a client and they're really happy, that's a great time to reach out to them and be like, Hey, thanks for, you know, working with me on this job. I really enjoyed working with you. Do you have anybody that you can recommend that I contact? And would you be willing to send out an introductory email? Or just at least gimme their, their name and email so I can reach out to them. And can I, can I name drop you?

Those are like, the two best ways I've found to like find clients is to look at your industry, find out where your, your industry hangs out, and go to those events. Go to those hangouts, go to those meetings, and just be a part of that scene.

And then once you have clients, start getting referrals. So word of mouth referrals. So those are the two biggest ways to to get.

Now, once you have those kind of things going for you, you want to utilize your online marketing to help people remember you, you wanna stay top of mind.

That is the whole point of social media, of email marketing, of your, even of your website, is that you want to remind people that you exist. You wanna remind people of the kind of photography that you do. You wanna remind people what it's like to work with you.

So, going back, you have your niche. You have your audience. You start building up a mailing list, an email marketing mailing list. Don't buy a list. Like use real people, like people you've met when you get business cards, put them in your mailing list. When you get inquiries, save those contacts into your mailing list. Anytime you get an email, put it into your mailing list and keep building that and start sending out, weekly or, or biweekly email messages.

Just letting people you, you know, exist. You know, you don't have to like sell them every time. You don't have to like say, Hey, do you need. Any work, you, you just, just talk about some, a recent shoot, you know, talk about a funny thing that happened on a photo shoot or talk about some amazing retouch that you did.

You know, like just, just stay in touch. Just be friendly, write your emails like you're writing it to a person that you know, and, send out information that would be enjoyable to read. Don't just send out spammy marketing. Here's my photo. Hire me. You know, you wanna give back a little bit to the people that you're emailing.

And chances are you, you probably won't get a big open rate. You maybe get 20, 30%, maybe less, but you do show up in their inbox and they see your name and they know that, hey, this is Jane Smith and she's a great photographer for portraits. So whenever we are ready for a portrait shoot, for this ad campaign, then we're gonna contact Jane Smith.

So that's the whole point. Is this, you stay on top of mind. And it's same thing with social media. Just keep putting out those, photos every day. It doesn't have to be deep. It doesn't have to be, you know, these epic long posts. You're not trying to sell anything to anybody.

You're, all you're trying to do is stay top of mind and reminding people the kind of photographer you are, the kind of work you do, and where you do it. If you're a local photographer or you're in California, or if you're in Virginia, or you're in Taiwan, you wanna remind people where you are as well.

So that is the episode on how to find clients. I hope it was helpful just to kind of recap the main points. The main thing is:

You want to target your audience.

You want to niche down in your own work

Build a strong portfolio and a website showcasing that niche to that certain industry.

And then once you have that industry, you wanna start, you're working on your networking and building relationships and referrals, building up that word of mouth.

And then finally, the last point is that all your online marketing, the whole point of it is to remind people that you exist and that you're a cool person to work with, and that whenever they need you, you're there for them.

So, Get out there get working on your website. If you need help with your website or if you need help with your portfolio or any your marketing strategies, I can help. You can go to and you can book a discovery call with me and we can come up with a plan for you to to grow your business.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy this episode, please rate review it on on your podcast streamer of choice. And share it with people, you know, send this episode out let people know this exists. So thanks for listening.

Have a great day.

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